Get your basics right before moving on to detailing food
Chef Manikandan Vijayakumar, consultant chef, M’Bessy, Esthell Hotel talks about his style of cooking and more
CHENNAI: I always knew my passion was to become a chef, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a hotelier. Even as a kid, I was good with home-made recipes and I owe a lot to my mother for that!
As a young chef, I also had the opportunity to work in West Asia for a while, and I collaborated with the personal chef of the Prince of Wales during my time in Europe.
I also worked with Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia at the only authentic Indian restaurant in mainland Europe. But I realised that I really wanted to explore modern Indian food and experiment with Indian flavours than cater to western cuisine. Especially, I want Indian food to be recognised globally through the Michelin star reputation, and am attempting that through my own venture, Chefman.
I am well-versed in European, Meditteranean, modern Indian cuisine, and homemade recipes. I especially crave for authentic tastes in my food. Precisely for this reason, I always work with my own spices and grind my own powders rather than going for packaged ones — be it piri piri spices, sambar powder or Mexican flavours.
I don’t use adulterated mixes because working with fresh spices induces the flavours easily. I’d rather use fresh tomatoes in cooking than go for processed tomato puree, and make homemade pasta in at least one of my dishes.
This is because I strongly believe that authenticity is key to keeping cooking natural.
I don’t believe ‘fusion’ food is the right way to put it — in fact a lot of our ingredients with western cooking are very similar. It is just that the cultures and climatic conditions have affected the cooking styles. So yes, while I do attempt to experiment I still keep the authentic taste of the food intact.
For example, I have taken an Italian dish called Arancini (stuffed rice balls coated with bread crumbs and fried) and used our very own sambar rice or pongal to make the dish! What I’ve done is taken the Italian concept and added Indian flavours to it.
As for presentation and plating, making it look presentable is not as important as putting the right ingredients to garnish. You should choose elements that complement the taste of the dish and not just for decorating or to make it look vibrant. Aspiring chefs should also take care to get their basics right as well as learn portion control and hygiene control. After that, you can move on to more detailed things like molecular gastronomy!